Sounds of a mountain
The constant sound of the wind is all consuming in the jungle, like a natural white noise machine. The wind has no predator on the island and everything is it’s prey. It affects everything on the island. The trees on the island bend to it. I’m not the only one here, there are plenty of animals talking as well, especially the birds. The chirping is second to the wind in terms of all consumption. It really does sound like all the birds are talking to one another all at once
In most touristic destinations, there exists an invisible wall between the “locals” and the “outsiders”. The relationship between the two is purely pragmatic and unemotional, one side offers experiences and services for which the other exchanges for monetary compensation. I’ve found that things in Guanaja are extremely different. In my first couple hours on the Island I attempted to observe people’s interactions who had been here before, part to see what I should do and part to see what I could learn. As soon as I arrived on the dock, I saw the faces of both the anglers on the boat and the guides on the dock light up. They greeted each other with jokes and hugs and proceeded to ask about each other’s wives, families and lives with genuine interest. In the following days I would see why they seemed so close. My hours on the boat with Edwin and Rankin would be filled with not just casual conversation but joking, talking about life and genuinely trying to give each other a good experience. The connection was fully illuminated when I asked Edwin if he “liked guiding” and he said with look on his face of pure joy “hell yeah brother, it’s so beautiful out here”. The toothy grin he gave me was so unforgettable that even a week later, I, a very forgetful person, remember it like a life changing event. It was evident from that simple response that Guiding was not only something he used to feed his family but also something he found extremely enjoyable. Although many people do not envy the conditions of the island, I hope one day I can find a job as fulfilling as Edwin. The point of Fish for Change is beyond simply fishing in exotic locations and doing some community service after. It’s about making genuine changes and connection within the community. During our community service, we see the other side of Guanaja, we see many of the staff’s homes, families and daily lives. By attempting to help them, not from a place of condescension but of understanding, we can grow and learn things ourselves. One example of this is the hospital we are attempting to open. The hospital will be beneficial to all residents of Guanaja however it will be most beneficial for parents and their children. No matter where on earth you live or how much money you have, the love and concern parents have for their children stays the same. When someone’s kid is sick it does not matter if it’s a millionaire client coming for vacation or someone who lives on 200 limperias a year, help is on the mainland. The feeling of helplessness the person feels as a sick or injured person attempted to be evacuated transcends everything. By sufficiently funding the hospital we can remove this possible tragedy for natives and tourists alike.
Today we learned about the conservation of guanaja. We learned that there were only about 300 of the yellow napped parrots left. These parrots only live on guanaja and can only survive with a type of tree on guanaja. Hurricane Mitch wiped out most of their species and poaching has taken most of these birds from the wild. People poach these birds to sell them, mostly to the Caymen Islands.
We also learned that all sea turtle are very endangered. They are so endangered because of poaching, and most of the eggs being born are female because of rise in ocean temperature, and development. If a sea turtle sees even a light on a beach where they would normally nest they won’t go there. This is all incredibly sad and it is all caused by humans.
Next, we learned about what the mangroves do for our planet and how much deforestation is hurting it. Mangroves not only are the nursery for all the fish we catch but they are also very important to our environment. They help trap Co2 from getting into the atmosphere and help stop climate change.
These are important issues for all of us because we have to share the planet with these creatures and plants. Not only that but these animals were here first and should not be destroyed by us.
After returning to Guanaja for the second year I have realized a few things. I was awakened to these things by a quote I heard from my guide today. He said “we are on that horse man so we’ve got to ride that mother #$*&@”. This took me a while to comprehend what he meant by this. I pondered for the rest of the day on the boat and really something clicked in my mind. I decided to take a different outlook about my time here with fish for change. Rather than focus super heavy on fishing I’m going to fully take in everything I possibly can. I’m going to ride the horse. I am going to do my best to truly maximize the effort and though I put in to this trip. Whether it is working on aspects of fly fishing or finding a way to best provide for this community. You’re always told live life to the fullest and this in short is kind of doing that. I want not only myself but everyone in the group fully experience this amazing opportunity we have to fish for change.
Guanaja is unlike any place I have ever experienced. There is no place in the world like it. The people and the community are so unreal. This being my second year, I have never came across someone who wasn’t there to help out or try and make your day better. Guanaja also holds one of the best fisheries I’ve ever been around, holding big bonefish and permit of all sizes. With that being said, guanaja needs help amongst the community. Recently fish for change Has raised 5,800 dollars so the school in guanaja can open its first ever computer lab. This has a major impact on the life here because unlike back in the states, Guanaja is isolated from technology. Also, education stops after 18, so what do they do from there? Especially when the closest colleges are on mainland Honduras, one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
This week our minds are set out to help open Guanaja’s first medical center. In the past, if anyone got hurt or there was an emergency, they would have to run around town looking for someone willing to take you to Roatan via boat, which is like 2 hours away. On top of that, it is unreachable at night, so there is pretty much no hope if there is an immediate emergency. One of Steve’s friends have funded and built the entire hospital. With the help of the students this week we are going to do whatever we can to get the doors open. The hospital will change the lives of the citizens here at guanaja. It will save so many lives from freak accidents and benefit anyone and everyone. Our overall goal is this season is to raise a 100,000 to fund and operate the facility and its employees. Amongst the 100 kids that came through the program this year and the connections fish for change has, this goal will be reached.
With all the things guanaja lacks, I’ve never seen people more happy. It is so cool to see how people are at such peace and how they don’t want anymore than they have. Guanaja deserves everything it needs to help it become a better place, through Fish for Change we are going to make that happen.
Connection, a word with many interpretations, that vary on a person to person basis. When I initially signed up for this trip, I had somewhat of an idea in regards to the underlying meaning of Fish for Change. However, after completing the first day, I slowly began to grasp the significance of this program’s purpose.
Days passed quickly, and as time was spent both on and off the water, the image that slowly developed in my head was truly one of a kind. I started to notice how fly fishing, a passion many possess, served as a beacon of hope and truth among the people of Guanaja. Throughout the week, I had the privilege of participating in the Fish for Change program with young men and women who possessed a unique combination of authenticity and a clearly identified passion. Through fly fishing, a connection has been established between the locals of Guanaja and the participants of this program.
Although I haven’t gained a complete understanding of every moving gear within the larger machine known as Fish for Change, I believe time will serve as a valuable component to the process of understanding my overall experience in Guanaja. Conversely, I had a moment of clarity while fishing in the western flats of the island a few days prior to writing this blog. As the gray sky created a silver tint to the rippling waters of the rocky, white sand flats, I spotted a sizeable permit tailing. The scene and experience was surreal to say the least, but the compilation of emotions and images that crossed my mind before making a cast at that permit seemed to freeze me in time on those mysterious flats.
Having been surrounded by guides for a matter of hours each day, I realized in that moment that these men showed a sense of hospitality and understanding of life that is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever been witness to. As Mark would say, “Many men connect more on a boat in a series of hours than they would having been neighbors for ten years.” The attitudes each guide displayed throughout the week were otherworldly and refreshing in nature.
Despite the rarity of these experiences, they seem to be recognizable when encountered but difficult to fully understand when reflected upon. Connections, which can be quite rare in life, are a part of a strong web of relations within this community and are very much so alive and well.
- John David Grisebaum 6/21/19
A torrent of rain may find its way to the little island of Guanaja just after first light or under the blanket of stars; and it may last ten minutes or ten days but a mark has been left. Springs over-looking the sea on harsh mountains are replenished with a new wave of water and a cycle begins. Water flows from the spring through one stream at first but before soon the stream is split up into two, then three, and before long, a network of streams replenish the whole island with new water. While one stream may wash up new food for anxious mullet in a pool, another may cascade over a waterfall providing a place for a nice swim. But the cycle doesn’t stop at the streams, it continues further on. From stream to pipe this new water may be funneled down a hill side in order to supply people with water as is done in Mangrove Bite. The flow is not perfect, however, as the cycle may be temporarily disrupted as a lanky teenager busts the well worn pipe and the whole town gathers to resume the flow, all as the suspect flees. The water from here may exit to the vast ocean in a variety of ways. Some water joins the ocean as a sun beaten fisherman cleans off his dock in the marina after a long day. Ocean currents circulate and sweep the water away to all ranges of life, water travels through a mudding permits gills or through a skiffs running prop. On the flats lots of water lies, running through the mangroves arching roots where some of it may even get absorbed. Through the mangrove the water runs getting filtered back from saltwater to fresh. As the mangrove synthesizes the water some of it is released back into the sky; in the form of water vapor it travels thousands of feet back into the sky, restarting the cycle. As this cycle continues another cycle continues its revolutions around the island. Fish for Change students filter in and out of Mangrove Bight to stay for week of experiences unlike any others in their life. Students are not only able to experience world class flats fishing but also a more important experience, that being the customs, culture, and over all environment of the islanders of Guanaja.
- Tristan McKenna 6/20/19
When I first heard about Fish for Change through a Flylords article I was reading in the middle of my Environmental Communication class this past semester, I knew I needed to go on this trip. I remember filling out all the information online, then telling my parents. They thought I was insane that I wanted to go to Guanaja, in the middle of June, alone with a group of kids I had never met before. I didn’t care I was still going. I knew this would be a trip of a lifetime.
I must admit, my first thought about Fish for Change was that this would be an incredible opportunity for me to become a better fly fisherman and have an opportunity to fish for the big three - bonefish, tarpon and the legendary permit. But as my departure date got closer, I realized this week long trip has very little to do about the fishing.
Days before my trip I made a promise to myself that I would take in every second that I have on this Island. Fish for Change for me is about connecting with people who I never would have the opportunity to connect with. It’s about “what can I do for you?” not “what can you do for me?”. Do I want to take unreal shots at trophy tarpon, bonefish and permit? Of course I do, but I am at the age where I realize that it isn’t about that. It’s about taking every moment in and harnessing it as much as you can because nobody knows what my future holds. I have no idea when I will ever be back, or if I even will have the opportunity to come back. When I come back home and try to explain to my family what this trip was like, I will honestly be at a loss for words, my photos won’t give this island justice and my description of the people here won’t even scratch the surface of the relationships that I have built through my love of fly fishing. My one piece of advice for anybody lucky enough to take this trip is take in every second of every day, especially when you aren’t fishing. Yes, fishing is what brings you on this trip, but it opens a door to a way of life and relationships that you will not find anywhere else.
- Tyler Niven 6/20/19
Last year when I first came to Fly Fish Guanaja on Jones Key, I didn't know what to expect. I have heard people talk about Guanaja and how the fish here are all a challenge to catch. The first day in the flats with Rankin was more than I expected. The wind was blowing aggressively and some shots at the fish were 70-80 feet. Rankin taught me so much more than I previously knew about saltwater fly fishing. I gained so much knowledge that day on the flats and that week. The amount of skills there is to learn and know about fishing for bonefish and permit is insane to me. He taught me and made me understand what it takes to punch they fly 60 feet into the wind and how slow or fast to strip the line in. All of these small tips are eventually going to add up and help me catch a permit. I always thought it was amazing and super interesting to learn about how the fish react in the water and how they want to see the fly move in the water. I travelled back to Guanaja this year to improve my skills and interact with the community as a whole.
One day, after we got back from fishing in the flats, my friends and I walked into Mangrove Bight to try to hookup and catch some tarpon and snook. Within twenty minutes of being there, three young kids that were seven years old came up and were interested in what we were doing. One of the boys asked to try casting the fly rod once. This turned into 30 minutes of me teaching this young boy to fly fish. I taught him how to shoot more line out and how to cast farther. These kids were so interested in fly fishing and had so many questions to ask us about it. It was awesome to be able to answer these questions and better knowledge these kids about the art of fly fishing. He stayed with us for the whole two hours we were there fishing. We were talking and laughing the entire time. He told us a little about his life and his favorite things to do on the island. It reminded me of my first day in Guanaja and Rankin teaching me things that would improve my fly fishing skills. This moment in Mangrove Bight brightened my view on this amazing island and the people in it. I loved how i got to pass on my learning to these young boys and hopefully now they can continue fly fishing and become as passionate about it as I am. This experience was an eye opener for me in a sense that it made me realize how amazing it feels to teach someone skills and things that I was once taught.
This all ties back to one of the pillars for Fish For Change - education. To me, the “educate” pillar has a lot more meaning to it then just the word itself. It means that we should take every opportunity we have and share our knowledge them of the things we have been taught. Fish For Change has really had a positive impact for this island and people that live on it and also the people that get to come visit it. It has had an amazing impact on me and has given me so many opportunities that have enlighten my life and better informed me about the outside world and how good it feels to give.
- Henry Lewis 6/19/19